Friday, October 29, 2010

Lost / Changeling / Fear Itself

In an earlier instalment I mused on the idea of using the Changeling: The Lost rules and setting to run a game based on the Lost TV series.  This may or may not have been influenced by the two things having semi-similar names. Who knows...

Now, having read Fear Itself and had a little time to think on it, I have decided that it would be a far superior setting for any theoretical Lost inspired games.
Why? The book itself features only two antagonists - Mystery Men and the Ovvashi. The Ovvashi are demons that torment tramps (for that popular 'homeless urban survival horror' genre), whilst the Mystery Men are Q-like, god-like beings that can alter reality and do so with the sole aim of tormenting innocent humans. The only real weakness that Mystery Men have is that they adhere to various rules - either because they have to,or because they choose to.
The Fear Itself rules also make use of flashbacks during play, and require all players to define The Worst Thing (their character has) Ever Done as well as deciding which of the other PC's they like the best and dislike the most, which are all familiar devices used in Lost itself.

So, in this theoretical game, we have the following:
The PC's are caught in a contest between two Mystery Men (Jacob and the Man in Black/Smoke Monster) who use their powers to inflict various limitations and benefits upon the local environment (such as how to find it, how to leave, how to arrive, how certain bits of technology work, how people recover from illness, how time works in relation to the rest of the world etc) and to set various tasks and responsibilities for the PC's (press this button every x minutes, or something really bad will  happen). They also engineer coincidences and enigmas to madden an confuse the PC's.
The game itself would attempt to feature a flashback per session that focuses on one character and allows for development and plot progression.
Sessions would be driven by either investigation into the local environment and the unusual properties it possesses, or by a task imposed by the environment or by conflicts between characters. At times one of the Mystery Men will step in to progress their agenda against the other Mystery Man or to torment one of the characters.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The best game I never played

Geek books are like crack. I see them. I want them. I do morally repulsive things to get them. Then, after I have them, and the euphoric buzz has faded, I feel a little guilty and maybe regret the purchase.
I can normally rationalise the purchase away though...
It's well written, so it's like buying a regular book
It's a good system that's got me thinking, so it's a mental exercise, which is good
Oh, I will use it, it's fucking awesome

Then, months or years later you look at your book shelf and realise that the literally hundreds of pounds you've spent could have gone on something more worthwhile, because you've never used the damn things.

When my wife moved in, I showed willing and cleared out a load of my old RPG books. I sold off about 30 Mage: The Ascension books that I had never used.
I gave away about 15 Exalted books, 6 Orpheus books, 20+ Vampire: The Masquerade books, 1 Mummy: The Resurrection book, 20+ Ars Magica books and 4 Hunter: The Reckoning books that I had never used.

One of the rationalisations i used was that I was clearing house of everything I didn't use and was never going to use again.
I would start again.

As of now, I have 22 New World of Darkness books, including core rule books, most of which I have never used. I've not used Mage, Vampire, Changeling and a number of supplements.
I have Ars Magica 5th Edition, which I have never used.
I have Exalted 2nd Edition, which i have never used.
I have Trail of Cthulhu, Fear Itself and Star Wars Saga Edition. I've not used any of them.

This is kind of depressing. A lot of these are great games (the exceptions being ArM5 and Exalted 2, which appear to piss all over the previous, stronger, editions).

Unfortunately i don't see an opportunity in the near future for play either, which is a real shame.

I'd really love to do something with Changeling: The Lost, which is a really rich game chock full of opportunities and creativity.
I have about three or four Star Wars games I could run, and could pull off a respectable Vampire: The Requiem game.
I think i'd prefer to play Mage instead of run it.

Now, if only my children would age about 5 years, i'd have a bit more time...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gumshoe / Trail of Cthulhu / Fear Itself

A few posts ago I got fairly excited about Trail of Cthulhu, a new system based on the Cthulhu Mythos, and licensed by Chaosium Games, therefore legit. It looked much much better than CthulhuTech, so was worth a look.
I asked for it for my birthday, and my wife dutifully bought it for me.
It is pretty ace.
The system, The Gumshoe System created by Robin D Laws (who my friend assures me is a genius), is a nice change of pace from most, if not all, other systems i've played. The focus is on investigation, and the piecing together of clues. Most games require you to pass a test to discover a clue, which can really stall play after a few unlucky rolls. The Gumshoe system takes a different approach - If you have a skill that could find the clue, and you state that you are using it, then you get the clue. The focus then falls on what you make of the clue, and where it leads you.
All pretty good.
A story should be set up to deliver one 'core clue' per scene, and a scene ends when the players uncover it. The clues should then add up to lead the players through the plot and to the final (and in the case of a Cthulhu game, maddening) truth.
Combat is simple and straight forward, and fairly lethal. There's no fiddly initiative, or distances, or speed. Mostly just death.
The most effective thing a character can do during combat is flee, which is so important that it has its own stat. At last!

The Cthulhu Mythos makes up the rest of the book, and is dealt with great affection, as can be seen whenever there's a sidebar that discusses the playtest phase and alternate rules. Think your character is too likely to survive? Here's an optional character creation set for creating doomed characters. Want to die when shot, rather than just take 'cinematic' damage? Knock your self out with these optional firearm rules. Want to create an uneasy sense of paranoia and claustrophobia when your Sanity score falls? Here's a way to portray insanity without telling the player what their character is suffering from.
There's the expected different investigator classes, and imaginative and inspirational write ups of monsters, cults and Mythos Beings, plus an introductory adventure. Brilliant. I heartily recommend it to everyone.

I enjoyed it so much, I bought a copy of Fear Itself. This spoilt the illusion somewhat.
Fear Itself is about 80 pages long, and is sold as an ideal vehicle for running one shot slasher movie / thriller games.
On the surface, I was quite excited. It also uses the Gumshoe system, and I like that it was short. Just the basics, no unnecessary fluff for the sake of it. We're all familiar with the genre it supports, so why waste time writing about it. Let's just get on. Oh, and it's a bit cheaper.
The problem is that it's only 53% new material.
The actual game system is word for word identical to Trail... and, I imagine, any other Gumshoe system game.
This means i've spent money on about twenty new pages, including the introductory adventure (more on that later), out of eighty.
Not so hot.
It's a supplement that's been sold as a stand alone product.

The intro adventure at the back deserves special notice, though, for one reason alone. You play LARPers. Really. And it mocks you remorselessly for even knowing what a LARPer is (although it does mock Vampire/Goth Doom Cookie LARPers more).
A little to close to the bone, I thought, although possibly great fun to play if you really hate a certain clique of roleplayers.

I'd still be interested in Mutant City Blues or The Esoterrorists though...